Amitabh Bachchan turned 81 today. I am fortunate that I have been seeing him since he was 35 years old. In the last 46 years, there have been many meetings with Amitabh from his Delhi homes to Mumbai homes, from studios to various conferences. During this period, he remained at the peak and also faced bad times. But his three things are still the same – popularity, discipline and enthusiasm. Even today, Amitabh is as enthusiastic, energetic and young as he was at the age of 35. Sometimes it seems that his energy is also increasing with age.
When I first met him in 1977 at his Willingdon Crescent home in Delhi, he had come to stay with Babuji Harivansh Rai Bachchan and mother Tejiji due to his ill health. By then he had become a superstar with his films like Zanjeer, Abhiman, Deewaar, Sholay and Kabhi Kabhie. Her first film with Rekha, ‘Do Anjaane’, was released a few days ago. Then films like Don, Trishul, Naseeb, Namak Halal, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar and Sharabi were released, and within no time he became the megastar and Big B of the film world. Even Lok Sabha MP from his birthplace Allahabad in 1984. But, despite so many successes, such a storm came in his life in 1991 that he got trapped in a cycle of crises and went bankrupt. Then he remained very troubled and disappointed for some years. But, he still had the confidence that the bad days would soon pass. The same thing happened when the TV show KBC came on Star Plus in July 2000, and since then he became more energetic and younger than ever.
In the 110 year history of Indian cinema, some other actors also worked in films after the age of 80, like Ashok Kumar, Dev Anand and now Dharmendra too. When Ashok Kumar left this world in 2001, he was 90 years old. He continued working till the age of 86. Dev Anand continued working till the last stage of his life – at the age of 88. But, in his last 20 years, despite his tremendous energy, he could work in only nine films, eight of which he made himself, and which did not work. Now Dharmendra is an 88 year old star who is still seen in films like ‘Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani’. But, in the last 12 years, he was mainly seen in his home production films ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana’. Even heroes like Dilip Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna, Vinod Khanna failed to do Amitabh-like charisma after the age of 70. Amitabh did 20 major films between the age of 70 and 80, many of which were successful.
The pride with which Amitabh has stood by doing more than 200 films in his 54-year long career, starting from his first film ‘Saat Hindustani’ in 1969, is unmatched. Last year alone, his five films – Jhund, Runway-34, Brahmastra, Goodbye and Uttha were released. This year also his films like ‘Ganpath’, ‘Umesh Chronicle’ and ‘Kalki 2898 AD’ are to be released. Along with films, he is also continuously doing KBC. Apart from this, Amitabh has left everyone behind in terms of contribution in advertisements and social work. The big thing is that Amitabh is doing so much work when he has a deep connection with diseases. Be it the horrific accident in the movie ‘Coolie’ in 1982 or the disease of myasthenia gravis in 1984. Be it liver disease in 2006 during KBC-2 or corona infection in 2021. It is certainly unimaginable that at the age of 80, when 75 percent of his liver is damaged due to asthma and some other diseases, he still has the ability to work for 18 hours. Besides, he is so strict about discipline that he does not arrive late even by a minute. Neither illness nor traffic was the excuse. Despite being so senior, he is still a director’s actor. In the true sense, Amitabh is an inspiration for everyone today, from whom not only acting but also the mantra of success can be learned.
(These are the personal views of the author)